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tv   Book Discussion on The Unwinding  CSPAN  November 17, 2013 1:00pm-2:06pm EST

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>> my initial sense of why everything was imploding there was to blame the individual
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leaders and we know who they are. they were to blame. they were failures on the part of almost everyone in the highest positions of responsibility. but over time, iraq and afghanistan came to see more and more like a failure of american institutions and this includes the talent and good well of the country that all seem to avail nothing. and that was partly because it was an impossible job and also because the institutions that were responsible from the highest government agencies to the military from the media, that we are all there in one capacity or another. the nonprofit world, the for-profit world, they just did not have what ever had allowed us to rebuild europe after world war ii. something had been lost in the
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recent years. i wondered when did that happen and why did that happen. then i came back from iraq in time to cover the 2008 presidential election. suddenly the institutions were collapsing around me everywhere that you looked. wall street, lending institutions across the country, general motors. chrysler. it was an apocalyptic sense that the pillars that it had upheld during the postwar order had created the most successful middle-class democracy in history seemed to be coming undone. and that struck me as being a very big story, one well worth telling and the question was how do you tell a story like that? there are a lot of books out there, very good ones about the
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decline of the middle class and income inequality and about the collapse of our old media institutions and political polarization in washington and about the rise of big money and corporate power on capitol hill. i did not have anything to add to those books and i didn't want to write another what is wrong with america and how to fix it kind of book. when you ask me that, i will admit to you that i do not have the answers. but i thought that what i could add to this growing sense that something has come undone is a narrative and a book that gives you a picture of the country the way a big novel would give you a picture of the country through the stories of individuals, which is the way that i approach the world and understand the world in the way that i think about how to describe the world.
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and so i began to go around the country and find those individuals that can tell this larger story of what i think of as the end of the deal that used to exist among americans, a deal that said that if you do your part and work hard, there is a place for you and maybe even a better place for your children. a dream of upward mobility and generations and of equal opportunity for all peoples. what we have seen over the past generation, which is what is covered of about three decades, it is the fraying of our social contract and so now i think it can hardly be said to exist any longer. and this includes its replacement by something else. a big and ambitious subject that is best illuminated and hidden by small dramas and i have tried to find not and i have read on
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the prologue to give you a lay of the land and the writing in the book and talking a little bit more about it. and no one can say when the unwinding began in one the coil that held americans together and it's secure and sometimes stifling grip first gave way, like any great change, the unwinding began in countless ways and at some moment, the country always the same country, crossed a line of history and became different. if you were born around 1960 or afterwords, you spent your adult life in the vertigo of that unwinding. he watched structures that had been in place before your birth collapsed late pillars of salt across the vast visible landscape and the farms of the carolina piedmont and the factories of the valley, the florida subdivisions, california
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schools. and no less vital in supporting the order of everyday life, changed beyond recognition, the ways and means in washington, taboos on new york trading desks and manners and morals everywhere. and when the norms that made the old institutions useful began to unwind and the leaders of the world and in their post, the void was filled by the default force in american life, organized money. the pages give you the map of the whole book and introduces all of the characters and the themes of the book and although overture, the ohio girl is a woman named tammy thomas who grew up in youngstown, ohio and watched the steel mill disappear
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almost overnight, replaced by nothing, and complete void that led to a kind of collapse with the city that was even faster and more breathtaking than detroit. and in this work absence of the mainstays of life, she had to raise three kids of her own on her own and did it in this auto parts plant job and that we should in the way of so many manufacturing jobs in and of itself and in midlife she was faced with the need to continue to survive and she remade herself as a community organizer. just in time for the election for barack obama in 2008. so as you can see, the washington operative attached his aspirations and his ambitions to joe biden and worked with joe biden for years and became disillusioned with biden and with government and became a lobbyist with just
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about everyone who made a fortune as a lobbyist and lost half of it in the financial process of 2008. and the whole book moves you towards this precipice of 2008. and in the face of that, he reentered government as a chief of staff with his successor, thad cochran, of making wall street pay an imposing discipline on the banks and bringing the wrongdoers who swap led to the financial precipice to justice, which of course none of which happened. but it was for him in a matter of self-respect to recognize that he had been part of a corrupt system to make it good. and the book also has profiles with a number of celebrities
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from newt gingrich and politics to oprah winfrey and entertainment and robert rubin and finance and alice waters as well. they represented the elites and many of them came from this background as these main characters that i am describing. but in most cases they either were rising up through institutions that no longer were working as they showed like colin powell in the government and robert rubin on wall street and they didn't understand until it was too late that they were part of the problem and that their institutions were actually working directly to undermine what they had. the other is of the celebrities are more institution breakers. and i think that that is kind of the role that the elites play today. and they got where they were breaking the rules moving fast,
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breaking things, jc is one of the subjects of the book and his whole career from drug dealer to corporate rock star is a story of don't simply hold down a job and finish school because that is a sucker's game. the way you make it is the way the mafia lords make it, which is to be tough and want to win and winning is its own justification. so the north carolina boy clutching a bible is a man named dean tries who is the son of a fire and brimstone teacher in north carolina and his family farmed tobacco for generations and he grew up with the ambition to be an entrepreneur and his heroes were people like andrew carnegie and henry ford and they
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were older americans and he has a deep-rooted myths in our history, which is very evident when you travel to the piedmont region of the carolinas. but he traded a chain of truck stops between north carolina and virginia with fast food restaurants and all the while, the countryside was collapsing around him. wal-mart and multinational companies were making it impossible for him to compete and meanwhile tobacco was dying as an industry and so was textiles from the other mainstay of life. by the time he tried to make this goal as an entrepreneur, rural south was beginning to look a lot like our cities with rampant drug abuse and multi-generations on public assistance and unemployment and despair settle in. dean tries, like all of the
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characters in the book, had a vision of how he could necessitate the collapsing border around him. and he had a sort of series of epiphanies, being a man from a religious area although he rebelled against his father's harsher christianity and he remained a spiritual man and his vision was of a kind of revival of the countryside through what was right at hand, which was like canola and waste from all of the fast food joints, biodiesel, wanting to become a biodiesel engineer. i will read you what catches him just at the cusp of this transition. and so you can see that i have a
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tremendous amount of material covering the vastness of the country. silicone valley, wall street, washington, the power centers, but so are these forgotten and left behind places, like the rules out and like the rural south and the housing bust. and i had to create a structure to tell these kinds of stories in the manner of a big novel which takes you through a structure of 30 years of history and it's not the biggest history. it is an inner history of their lives, which are always being pushed and acted upon by what is happening in places like wall street and washington. so it is history from the ground up, but always under the influence of these larger forces
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that are gradually undoing this that holds america together and so i will end with this passage from the middle of the book which comes before the financial crisis and is a reckoning for dean price and all the other characters in the book. and it ran past the woods, caroline ash, and in the shadows of the trees, a tobacco barn was year-by-year collapsing on itself. pieces of their side and nearby eight house was empty windows at the roadside was smothered in tree branches and vines. and it's still advertised this.
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it took a turn and there was a big satellite dish mounted on top and it's been the golden sunlight of abe field. a gentle hell in deep woods again and then an abandoned metal warehouse and the roads straightened and flattened and came to a spotlight where a pair of strip malls face each other. a walgreens across from a mcdonald's, shell opposing bp. another mountain of twisted metal next door to a spinning mill that was being better like a great novel and the sport sent off for part of the time. and then the tae kwon do studio, government benefits office, a closed restaurant and two pedestrians, four blocks, a
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dollar general. on the other side, the country opened up at once and the road passing fields, point pleasant on one, nothing on the next, clouds of dirt, and then a residential development with two-story look like houses laid out across someone's former tobacco farm. and be beyond the subdivision, isolated on acres of grass behind the split rail fence and the supersize châteaux of a celebrity and the landscape where he had returned to where he planned to live out his life was very old and also very new, as particular as anything in america and also as generic and as beautiful and as ugly. in his imagination had become a nightmare. so profoundly wrong and he called it sinful, and he hated the sin more than any casual visitor or just distant critic
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possibly could. yet he saw eight dream of redemption so unlikely and glorious but it can only fill the minds eye of a visionary native son and one striving through cleveland county, he happened to pass the hardshell baptist church that his father had once tried to get and failed. the failure that had broken his father's will and he had gone down with him to cleveland county and heard the story that his father had given back in 1975 so that decades later he recognized the church. and he also noticed that there was now a bojangles next-door. and they had come to represent everything that was wrong with the way americans live and how they raised their food and transported it in the way they employ the people who worked in the restaurants and the way the money left the community.
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everything about it was wrong. the own business, for gas and fast food, became hateful to him and he saw the error of his ways as his father never had. and a conjunction of his father's legacy and his own struck him them with bitter irony as he drove past. and he was seeing beyond the services of the land to its hidden truth. some nights he sat up late on his front porch with a glass of jack and listen to the trucks headed south on 220, carrying crates of live chickens to the slaughter houses like it fast and shameful thing. change chickens pumped full of hormones love them too big to walk. he thought about these chickens returning to their destination to bojangles uphill from the house and the meat would be
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drowned by the bubbling fryers of employees whose hatred of the job would leap into the cooked food and that the food would be served up and eaten by customers who would grow obese and end up in the hospital with diabetes or heart failure and a burden to the public and later dean would see them riding around in electric carts because they were too heavy to walk the aisles, just like hormone filled chickens. [applause] >> said that as his nightmare vision of one of the most beautiful parts of the country and it is his quest, which is both self-interested because he wants it to be his fortune, and also a sign of deep commitment and really to the idea that he
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still holds true about it with what he calls this new economy, he calls it that in all innocence as if no one had ever used that phrase. because no one told him about it. he didn't have an organization behind it were a newspaper or a business association or a community college, and that is true of all the characters in the book. they are figuring things out for themselves and what he figures out is that you get this made into every school bus, and every county in north carolina, the entire state will be like silicon valley and that is how he used to talk about it. he saw himself, and i say this in all respect as a kind of steve jobs bio diesel, and that is what he is doing so today. so in each of these stories, with all of them. they all make mistakes and they
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screw up in big ways and they go bankrupt and they make stupid investments. their marriages breakup and they have too many children without a father to support them. they get involved in dirty businesses, but they never let go of the idea that there is something more important than simply surviving and that america stands for something, the question is whether their investment in the american dream is reciprocated and is it still invested in people like them. so the book takes us through their stories and the stories of others while moving between power centers and backwaters and celebrities and obscure people as this time moves from the past, the late 70s until the moment that we are living in now, and that is what i tried to do in writing this book. thank you.
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[applause] >> staff writer for the new yorker, author of this wonderful book, we have a lot of questions that people are going to ask you. a few things, you just summed up all the problems of america in a pretty much that segment. >> it's not just about chicken. [laughter] >> people want to know about the book, "the unwinding: an inner history of the new america", i tell myself, i have to ask how long did it take? how we find the people. >> this book was unlike anything i've ever written. it took about three years, two years of reporting in the nine months in which the reporting kind of continued because i really hadn't finished. i knew that i had to start writing and i'm still exhausted from it.
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and i didn't have a master plan. this was the terrifying thing. i had instincts, like who is an interesting person. i told him to stop talking, don't waste your time. but little did i know i heard the same story a hundred times from him and he was always exciting always sounded like he was telling it for the first time, his epiphany about biodiesel, he let me into his world and i stayed at his house and i went down or six or eight times and he let me drive around north carolina on his lonely quest and it was as riveting to see this one man up against the multinationals, the big indifference of bureaucrats and the poverty of the region and the skepticism of his own mother and he just kept at it in this quintessential american way and that was an easy one. so of course i wanted to tell his story that fits so well with
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this larger theme. the washington operatives met with us and he mentioned that he had been a long time individual who ended up with this part of the story and i was always looking for at the character would allow me to tell the story in internet terms. i did not want to tell the big story of how money took over in washington. we have heard it and assembling all the research and data that would seem pointless. but to tell it through one man's life, that kind of excited my literary instance and tammy thomas actually went out to find a woman who is doing something to try to turn around her
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community. see maxie visited these people again and again and it seems like he spoke with families and friends and a lot of on the ground reporting. >> it reads like a novel. so what about the approach that you took to put it all together as opposed to a more polemic or academic book? >> the biggest decision i made was to get rid of the first-person, so you'll not find myself anywhere in the book. it was very awkward. and so the decision meant that i had to tell the entire story through characters and there was going to be no direct commenting, explaining, arguing, bringing in my own experience, which are the tools i have always used in the past, not me so much closer to the terrain of
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the novel in the third person, but with a lot of points of view. and the structure was the moment of panic and i had done two years of hard work and had no idea how all of this would hang together. and it was really a state of crisis and my wife reminded me that i had actually come up with a structure, which i got rid of because i thought would it would never work and she reminded me that it was the great trilogy, which is about 20 century in america, which moves from this ordinary protagonists to portraits of woodrow wilson and john rockefeller and jpmorgan and through these kind of mismatches of headlines in different moments along the way,
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i didn't think i could do that because i didn't think that i have whole story of these people that would allow me to go through 30 were 35 years of their lives. i realize i got a lot from it, spending weeks from people and that became the structure to move through american history in these parallel tracks from different parts of the country and to cut back and forth, which means that we have to make careful decisions and how long can i leave him after introducing him before the reader will forget about him and how much patients cannot count upon and it does demand that. >> when he read this book, you will see this. it's not necessarily a bad thing. we have undergone this many times. so do you come to a conclusion
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as whether it makes the country better? >> i think it's moved in two directions at once. i think that we have greater freedom than we have ever had before. i think that we have more choices and more people who can use them in the circle of inclusion has widened and we can now be a boy scout, which i could not do and i was a kid and that's a good thing. but that gay boy gave boy scout probably goes to a crappy public school and at the same time that we have had this widening freedom and choice, we have had growing disparities until today where we are at a point where it seems relatively egalitarian and we have a class of celebrities are like a superclass under
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themselves and they marry each other and they cheat on each other and they sit on each other's boards, they supported others causes, they are living like olympic gods and their countrymen are left at the bottom of the mountain and that is the role that some celebrities in my book play. and it is hard to say is a trade-off worth it. and we have more freedom and less security than we did 30 years ago. if equal opportunity is disappearing and more americans have opportunity, fewer americans do and the family you're born into is really going to determine where you end up in that wasn't true when i was growing up. that is kind of the crucial part
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without equal opportunity and we become a stratified society and i hate seeing that happen. and i fear for the future that my kids will grow up and do this because everything is pushing us away from each other. and we are connected virtually and i think physically and actually gets us into niches. we are going to have a new network based on society and i think that they can be useful for things like this, like amazon and wikipedia and kick starter and it has a few things wrong in my biography.
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no surprise. but i don't think it has the basic answers that we face. so i don't have the magic on this to move to the next situation. i'm sure that we will get there, but i don't know when. >> was there a point or a historical moment for government business seem to move away from this or lose its obligation towards a fairer society? >> you can pinpoint that i began it in 1978 and it is because i graduated from high school and i think it is a signal event beginning to dissolve what held together public institutions. and that throughout the 70s with all of the economic appeals
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, businesses felt that they could no longer afford to play ball with government and labor without the era of business labor cooperation and they began to spend money on lobbying in washington in a big way. the bills were all defeated, including a labor law reform bill. because business lobbied against them. douglas fraser was the head of the uaw than and he wrote an interesting letter of resignation and this includes one of the mash ups from 1978 and he said that the leaders of industry and finance in the united states had broken and discarded this during the past.
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macro growth and progress and today we can't even imagine there's going to be such a thing to solve problems of automation and it is essentially pursuing the interest. there was a time when all of this exercise strength but if you pursued your own narrow interests, you might be able to destroy the thing that holds society together. you can look back at the late 70s and see where that happened. >> there is always a tendency. what are the inflation levels and should we have known that? >> no, i would not want to go back in a time when whole classes of americans were disenfranchised and there was no
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lipitor. [laughter] and when the best tv show was the mary tyler moore show. there's a lot of good things about life today. one of them is in my pocket, i'm a slave to it. it has power and i don't see why these things could've coincided with a maintenance of a basic contract among them that held the country together rather than turning everyone into a free agent a real figure of the present. it's all about entrepreneurship and making his own way. except no one ever makes their own way. there's always government programs which created silicon valley and there's always a
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bureaucratic structure that creates the boundaries in which people can operate for someone can abuse their power and eroding and collapsing around us. and i don't see why we can't have good boy scout. >> are there any institutions that survived or are gaining strength? >> is the internet institution? >> the internet is the thing that we have created a sort of like saying be like saying that, you know, air travel is part of it. maybe they are out there. i would love to hear from audience members and others who think that i've missed a phenomenon that happened under our noses, but it's too early to see it.
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one thing is that newspapers and networks are dying out and the "l.a. times" might be owned by the cobrothers in a few months. we have a few holdouts and the new yorker is one of them and they may continue. but there was value to having strong independent news organizations with a level of competence and expertise that was expected. is that cries out, we have twitter and facebook and social media, which is a powerful thing that more and more people can use. so everyone has their own news organization and we have this new thing called citizen journalism, which there is a
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chapter in the book about andrew breitbart. it is fun. and it suggests a contempt for what i do is that anyone can do it and you better get out of the way with fresh energy taking over. >> this isn't brain surgery. >> it is not. but it's not this either. >> if you're listening, i'm just reminding you that are just as discussing what is harming the social fabric of our networks.
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many have probably seen this. this includes some parts of california, in some parts the parents have talked about further lack of property taxes. >> did california passed an initiative to raise funding for public schools? >> yes. i almost put that into the 2012 matchup because it seemed like the perfect book in 1978 after this long and misguided foray into attacks and small government. and we had have begun to wake up to the fact that you just can't
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be a successful society and economy without responsibilities to match your rights. and so that could be a sign that there is a new sobriety and a new maturity about the public. but every time that i see it in that way, i see apple doing everything they can to avoid paying corporate taxes and still calling itself a revolutionary lifestyle that thinks differently. so i don't see a trend in a single direction. and when i began this book, it had a work of decline handle. and it was along the lines of 1932 and 1980 when the whole historical trend would move in a new direction and it's been a
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disappointment and i don't the don't put all the blame on the president. and they keep coming back to the institutions that are broken in this includes one wise and able man that will never be able able to fix this or put it to use. >> there is talk in california, at least in terms of how businesses handle this. researching questions from the audience, what is your take that many also wallpaper for personal philanthropy as opposed to institutional approaches. they want to dictate where the money goes? >> yes. in the prologue i wrote about this, but in that in the place of the institutions we have celebrities. they have begun to replace
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institutions. mark zuckerberg is there instead of the public health system, oprah winfrey is there instead of a vibrant culture. so bless them for being generous, but don't personalize that way and it becomes arbitrary and capricious, it masks self-interest that are always at work. and i wrote a piece for the new yorker about the politics of silicon valley and its mother industry that apparently made some people unhappy. i thought it was pretty obvious thing. [laughter] so i guess it is a return to we saw at the start of the century,
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the titans of industry. creating universities, libraries. other great legacies as well. which no one can object to, but seem like the public sector is absent in the idea that there is a kind of love that she ties together that is way above the personal, it is sort of fading. so one of the single individual who is the savior of an institution. it may be idealistic, but it's not very democratic. it's not accountable. >> i'm curious what would be the main economic deficiencies if we were to go back in time. >> i think the biggest difference is if you are growing
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up in north carolina and you're not interested in school and then you get your gpa and a high school degree and a job waiting for you at r.j. reynolds tobacco warehouse in winston-salem or at hanes underwear and that job will allow you to raise this and that no longer exists. to that a giant swath of americans have then been left out of whatever new kinds of employment are being created in the economy that has replaced the industrial economy. the two most successful sectors and i like it better than wall
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street, silicon valley better than wall street. but neither one is creating jobs that are working or even middle-class jobs in the sense that i grew up understanding where people without great education more chances could just do okay or well enough to be part of society. and you fall and you draw. one of the chapters of the book, one was a blue-collar worker working at wal-mart, and a dollar per hour produced doctor and there's no way you could support a family on that and that is what some people are now faced with and i think that that would be the most rheumatic change that you have seen in the economy.
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>> yes, one job rather than three were old enough to sustain us and that we sort of have a place that was made for you, you could step into instead of having to re-create yourself every few years as a creative destruction of capitalism keeps changing. one of the main characters in the book is an individual who founded paypal and became a billionaire through facebook and he lives in san francisco and he's a libertarian and he has this interesting situation. he really is a believer in, you know, forgetting about the old tired structures. life is a bunch of individuals and society is individuals and you need to utilize this. but he also next the internet,
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the tech revolution, that coincided with a period of this and maybe the iphone is an overrated gadget. there's not many billionaires are willing to talk about it. he's a very interesting character in this whole world. >> don't you feel the changes in the tax code resulted in the ability to achieve the american dream and began this unwinding? >> another thing that began in the late 70s was dramatic progressive changes in either needed to be some changes because taxes on the upper brackets were at 80% during the eisenhower years and somehow those were still very process years. the 70s changed everything. i keep coming back to the 70s because suddenly businesses can compete, globalization began,
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inflation ate away at things in our people's wealth and it was a reaction, which is we have to protect our interests here, and wealthy people have to do the same there was perhaps a natural reaction which brought reagan talking about the spread but what i think as disturbing as one certain taboos seem to be broken, like the idea that you should not do everything you can complain that there are not enough educated engineers in this country. if you are a ceo that has fired 20% of the workforce, you should not have a board that will give you a big pay raise for doing now. things that just demoralize people and make it seem as if you are a sucker if you play by the rules. that shift didn't need to follow
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the course correction came in with reagan. and once a taboo is broken, everyone has to break it or you are a sucker and the tax code became a little bit of a window or loop hole into which much bigger forces started to pour into. >> many of the people have talked about being philanthropic and this includes bill gates, is this a sign of something moving in the direction? >> that is the sign of a plutocracy which understands that it doesn't look good to die with all your money. [laughter] and second the country needs
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them because there is this desperate need of. i admire that interest exemption that i do for him calling to his federal billionaires to give this away. that is the kind of structural change and also fundamental sacrifice of self interest but i think that the pattern for the others to follow. >> someone asks, can we trust anyone? >> i have a positive portrait of elizabeth warren. the only reason i trust her. >> it worried me to see her join the least democratic body in any democracy of u.s. senate. and to know what senators become because i have interviewed quite a few. but what i like about her is that she doesn't talk with a
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kind of wink and a nod as if to say that we all know that we are in in the same group manages me to say these things are basically we understand each other and instead she stirs people and she is plainspoken and seems actively hostile especially wall street banks and she reminds me of my grandfather in a way. he was a kind of populist congressman from alabama in the early 20th century and she reminds me of politicians and she comes from oklahoma. that is a type of american politician that has pretty much died out. but there she is. and so i am watching her without hope.
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>> won something on one's comings or any going back and can it be wound back up? >> on the family. can we have the new deal back, probably not. can we have glass-steagall back. that is what jeff said and probably not. does that mean nothing whether reassertion of public power can happen? now. it's a constant shifting back and forth in american history and public interest and private interest and we have gone so far in this direction that i think there is a sense of crisis and things being broken but we still need, we need an sec that can prevent the stock market from becoming an electronic casino that only the wealthiest and sophisticated investors have a
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chance of dealing with. because the stock market is such an important institution for ordinary americans put their money in. it has become a place where high frequency trading in milliseconds is going to win it out. and if you are out there with her 20 year stock certificate, you'll be left behind. so there is no reason why in a new form the old idea of public power and accountability can't be revived. but i know my and tendency is to look back as the model gets in the way and we all have our biases and maybe people younger than me will figure it all out. >> would've the tea party on the other hand, which is sustaining us a little bit longer. is it going to take something
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like that, or is that the wrong way to go about a? >> they don't have the answers but they are both are very different polls and they're both in my book. and there is a long chapter on occupy wall street. and they're both populist reactions to a sense in the institutions run by those elites no longer serve broader concerns and that diagnosis is accurate and will stay with us because it is accurate. it was a name more than a movement but a very important name they gave people a language to articulate a feeling that has been widely held and i've spent
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a lot of time and once it was ended, which showed it never had a deep foundation or structure, in a way it was something they wanted everything to be labeled with no leaders and goals and demands. and that did, it did through the media today articulate something that is real and the tea party has more the basis in local politics and parties and it came and went pretty fast. and this includes moving in the direction of socialism and libertarianism and you can't have both as they were both saying. one of the main characters among the celebrities as robert rubin and a shining example of wall street and washington and a
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complete failure because he was getting well paid by a banker turned out to require massive infusions of taxpayer money in order to put down the rest of the economy with it. and maybe those seem to be the most qualified. and i talk to people who have said that very clearly. they don't know better than i do. and i don't like that state of affairs. where no nothing is an ignorance exulted and i actually believe in experts and institutions as you get better. i don't believe that they should be fake or rig and i think that
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is the way it seems. >> were the most important things that we can do collectively an individual law to ensure equitable america? >> that's a question that i fear the most. >> i think that i don't have doubts this book does not end with 10 prescriptions for making america a better place. there are other books that do that. i didn't want to leave you with an adequate kind of bogus set of policies. so i just wanted to paint a portrait and make it as panoramic and intimate as i could at the same time, hoping that a narrative would be one way we could understand ourselves and that we could see who we are and how different
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things that seem to be happening in different parts wave, how they can actually -- there is something holding it together and there is a common story that ties wall street to rural north carolina and youngstown and the look on valley and that is what i try to do in the unwind and that is my best inadequate answer to that question. >> why is it that we don't see the perspective of time, these things happening in the moment and we don't recognize what is going on and how to stop it from heading that direction? >> it's all around us. it is our light. we are taking things for granted. and you become paralyzed you think critically too much about your life and living it to much extent. but the broad sense in america even if the stock market is
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reaching these levels. there's a sense that we haven't had real economic dynamism or political progress for a long time. and americans are restless and they also have an idea that is beyond just gdp then quarterly earnings and who won the last cycle. it's something that is essential in the fabric and on the walls in north carolina, the declaration is on one wall, the gettysburg address is on another wall. in a quote from robert lee is on the table in the dining room and he kind of has it all covered. and maybe and sophisticated cities, people no longer feel comfortable with those things. but that is what it is about.
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.. from riding the train for, a when you think nothing is happening are paying attention, something is always happening and it's often in the most looked for places to go with is not there. there's no one paying attention. it's happening while people are focused on the iphone six with
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the latest filibuster in the senate. but that is happening in this book. it's very local, very fragmentary and are typically responding to what they see at their feet and their communities and coming up with improvised answers, which shows a certain creativity and resourcefulness of resilience, which to me is hopeful. i don't see it as part of some larger social patterns or trends that i could give a name to. maybe that's for another writer. but i do think it is happening and it may be sort of the duty of each of us to think about that and to think what it requires where we stand. it may not come from washington this time. and i come from each of these little quiet places. >> lecturers get to the table to sign the books quickly as opposed to approach them up here. i fleet bank george packer, staff writer for "the new
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yorker," author of "the unwinding." [applause] we also thank our audience here and on the radio internet. i remind you we will autograph the book for sale on the lobby. i am doug sovern. the place where you are in the know was adjourned. [inaudible conversations]
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>> now, jill lepore, history professor at university recalls the life of benjamin franklin's sister, jean frink went from her national book award titled "book of ages: the life and opinions of jane franklin." [applause] >> good evening. thank you so much for the wonderful introduction. i now have to join facebook just to see the picture of your dog. i feel a little bad. it is so nice to be here. thank you offer coming.
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it's such a treat to be in philadelphia, franklin's hometown to talk about jane who once visited peter and didn't love it as much as she loved boston. but also to be here in a public library and celebrate the space and all that it stands for. thank you to the library. [applause] i am hoping that none of you have ever heard of jane franklin because i want to tally the story of her life and we don't have that much time to do it. she led a rich and fascinating life and i'm going to try to give their whirlwind tour of it. we'll be looking at sites and i even have props. says that back and listen to the tale that is unknown to you. in 1771, they sent a pair of spectacles. rather, he centers 13 pairs of spec


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